Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of medical error case reporting by national newspapers on inpatient volume at acute care hospitals.
Design: A case-control study was conducted using the article databases of 3 major Japanese newspapers with nationwide circulation between fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Data on inpatient volume at acute care hospitals were obtained from a Japanese government survey between fiscal years 2011 and 2014. Panel data were constructed and analyzed using a difference-in-differences design.
Setting: Acute care hospitals in Japan.
Participants: Hospitals named in articles that included the terms "medical error" and "hospital" were designated case hospitals, which were matched with control hospitals using corresponding locations, nurse-to-patient ratios, and bed numbers.
Exposure: Medical error case reporting in newspapers.
Main outcome measures: Changes to hospital inpatient volume after error reports.
Results: The sample comprised 40 case hospitals and 40 control hospitals. Difference-in-differences analyses indicated that newspaper reporting of medical errors was not significantly associated (P = 0.122) with overall inpatient volume.
Conclusions: Medical error case reporting by newspapers showed no influence on inpatient volume. Hospitals therefore have little incentive to respond adequately and proactively to medical errors. There may be a need for government intervention to improve the posterror response and encourage better health care safety.
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